Business Marketing for Pilates and Yoga Instructors

Tips and Traps, an Interview with Kylie Saunder

Three woman having fun doing Pilates and yoga floor exercises

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Almost everyone needs help with their business marketing. If you are a Pilates or yoga instructor, especially if you have a studio, you might be thinking, Great, I know how to teach, but no one gave me any training in marketing. You don't know what to do, really.

You might think of things like advertisements and websites, and you would be right, those things are important, but not the first thing you need according to Pilates and yoga business marketing mentor Kylie Saunder.

Key Business Questions to Ask

What you need first, Kylie says, is a vision for your business. You have to get very clear about what you want from your business and how you want to participate in it.

Questions to ask yourself right up front include:

  • Are nights and/or weekends OK? If so, how often?
  • Do I really want a studio?
  • How much do I want to work?
  • When do I want to work?
  • Who do I want to work with?

Once you open to exploring questions like these you might find there are more options than you think, and those can lead to a more satisfying business as well as creative marketing.

You might think you can't afford to honor to your own wants—that you just have to do your best on as many fronts as you can these days. Maybe you are afraid to define yourself for fear of alienating a potential client. But what Kylie says is that clarifying what you want and what's special about what you have to offer, is the critical piece you need to differentiate yourself from the pack.

If you're not working with the right types of people from day one, you're not branding yourself and getting the right referrals, she says. With the right "mindset," as Kylie calls setting your intention, your personal lifestyle, and your business can actually thrive in harmony.

Common Marketing Traps to Avoid

As we go on, Kylie fills us in on how you can do your brand your style, and stay out of common marketing traps.

Copycat Marketing

Don't fall into the trap of looking to other Pilates studios to know what to do, Kylie cautions. For example, a trap people fall into, she says, is to look at local prices and try to win by being cheaper. That can work in the short-run, but in the long run, you won't be building a sustainable business that reflects anything special about you. If you can make what's special about you and your business stand out, you can charge properly for that.

Another copy-cat trap Kylie cites is to think you have to give the same kinds of classes other studios are giving. If, for example, everyone is running 75-minute reformer classes but that doesn't really work for you, don't do it.

Be creative. What about a 30-minute express class instead? If everyone is teaching reformer, maybe you emphasize props or circuit training, she says. And the same kind of out-of-the-box thinking needs to go into what you say in your marketing. You won't stand out if you market yourself saying the same things everyone else says.

Don't try to do marketing that doesn't feel right to you just because "everyone" is doing it or saying things a certain way.

Kylie gives the example of social media marketing. If you are in business, you are going to have the idea that everyone has to market on Twitter and Facebook shoved down your throat. But is that for you? Is it where your clients are?

If you hate it, Kylie says, it's not going to work for you. If you love it and your clients are there, great. There is no one formula. The point, as Kylie says, is to be grounded in who you are. "If you just copy what everybody says you have to do, you won't be successful. What you choose has to fit with who you are. Listen to your intuition."

Misdirected Social Media

Marketing to peers and not prospective clients is another trap lots of Pilates teachers, in particular, fall into. Being different and connecting with the right clients is not about your Pilates or yoga training, Kylie says.

Clients assume you have training and, in any case, most don't know what your certification really means. Nor is it about putting Joseph Pilates or the history of Pilates on your homepage. What does that mean to clients, she asks? Nothing. What you need to do to help your business is to speak your clients' language.

Ignoring Feedback

You need to be able to articulate what you are offering in a way that draws the right clients to you. The clients you have, the ones that are like the ones you want more of, can teach you how to do that. But, this is where a lot of teachers run into some inner resistance, Kylie observes.

It's easy to ask, "How was the class?" and get an "It was great," but, she says, you have to dig deeper.

You have to find out what benefits your clients are receiving from your classes -- how they feel after and how that affects their lives. Listen to what they say and how they say it. They are telling you what is important to them as well as what kinds of descriptions make sense to them, and to more people like them.

Chances are, Saunder points out, clients are not going to use standard ​Pilates terms like "long, lean muscles" or "efficient movement". If you can use what they do say, you can attract more clients who want those benefits.

Lack of Self-Promotion

Not only do you need to talk to your clients, but you need to get out into your community. That's where your clients are, and that's where you will find out what they want and spot niches you can fill.

Does touting the fact that Pilates can give you a body like Pippa Middleton or a ballet dancer really making sense in an area where the majority of your clients are looking for relief from aches and pains and better posture?

Some clientele is interested in having a celebrity body or a dancers' body. If that is a niche in your area, and that's what you want to teach, then, by all means, put it out there. It's not a formula but rather a willingness to be creative and listen. That way, you get an enduring match between the life you want to live and finding clients who want your work.

Now, here's another piece of courage you'll want to muster up: You must get out into your neighborhood. Kylie points out that people miss many cross-promotion opportunities by not getting out and looking for them. Have you introduced yourself to your business neighborhood? If your neighbor knows what you do they can tell someone else.

Too many people open Pilates or yoga studios, do a little advertising (which may or may not be targeted at who they are and who they want to teach) and then hang around waiting for clients to walk in the door. As Kylie says, if you are not willing to get clear on your marketing and do what it takes to meet people and get clients, a Pilates business can be a very expensive hobby.

Lacking Confidence

Do you need more training or do you need good marketing? So often, Kylie says, we have confidence when we're teaching but rarely were we trained in promotion and marketing. Then, when clients don't show up, we default to the idea that we need more training. Oh, if I only knew more about backs or shoulders or certain populations, we think. And now another $500 to $1,000 dollars is out the door and you still haven't invited the people you need in.

Your professional development is important, Kylie assures, but another training program or another piece of equipment isn't going to bring in more clients. Get the clients, then get training to serve them, she says.

If you are a Pilates or yoga instructor who got their teacher training, you have to trust yourself that you have enough to offer. Kylie points out that no one is likely to come along and give you permission to be an expert. An expert, she says, is someone who knows more than the person next to them.

Too many instructors think they can't give workshops, for example, because they know others who know more than they do. But, Kylie says, if you can help someone else you can offer your service, even if you've only been teaching six months. By example, Kylie says, maybe you had an injury that Pilates helped you recover from. You know a lot about that. You don't have to be a "master teacher" to do a basic knee workshop or something similar.

A Word From Verywell

Much of what we've talked about is working from what Kylie calls the "right mindset". It's about giving yourself permission to be who you are and letting that be your brand. Then, you decide who you want to work with and figure out how to talk to them. That's your marketing.

It's a relief when you see that being yourself can work in your favor in marketing. As Kylie says: Joseph Pilates was unique. Stand up and inject your uniqueness into your own business!

Kylie Saunder is a marketing and mindset mentor specializing in Pilates and yoga. After working in the corporate world, Kylie became a fitness and Pilates instructor, successfully running a fitness studio and two Pilates studios. Kylie offers Pilates and yoga business counseling as well as e-books and other materials to help your business. Find out more about Kylie at her website:

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